Nicholas Hytner and Nick Starr's intimate new South Bank theatre, where the focus will be on new writing, opens in riotous, melancholy style at home with Karl Marx
London's newest theatre has landed. Triumphantly. Two hundred tonnes of steel on a sprung concrete slab. A place in which the audience can be wrapped around the performance area, as in an Elizabethan theatre – but which has no pillars to block its view. A space that seats 900 but which feels intimate and intense. No subsidy. Seats from £15 to £65. A construction schedule that would be the envy of anyone who has ever had a new kitchen fitted.
The Bridge is the base of the London Theatre Company, set up by Nicks Hytner and Starr, who ran the National Theatre together for 12 years. Architects Steve Tompkins and Roger Watts of Haworth Tompkins – the company that has re-created theatres from the Liverpool Everyman to the Young Vic – started work on the site only in mid-2015. Helped by the rock-gig technology of entertainment engineering company Tait, they have made a mighty space: one which feels utterly secure but which also has what Tompkins calls the “electrical connection” between audience and actors. The steel's strength allows galleries to be stacked on top of each other so that no one is stranded far away from the stage. The stalls seats can come out, as they will for the next show, Julius Caesar, when actors will move on platforms among the audience.